When I opened my first tin of Anassa’s “Pure Defense” herbal tea, I wasn’t sure whether I should prepare a cup of tea or set the herbs out in a glass bowl on the living room end-table, as one might potpourri. The mix of water mint, rosehip and dittany had a surprisingly brilliant color and fragrance.
There must be something in the way that they are dried that preserves their essential oils, color and fragrance, and I suspect (though I am no chemist), their antioxidants as well. The herbs for Anassa’s line of whole-leaf loose teas are picked and cleaned by hand. Though the herbs are certified to be organically cultivated, the firm carries out its own analyses. Samples are sent to labs at the Benaki Phytopathological Institute for quality tests. Co-founder Afroditi Florou notes: “Despite the extra cost, we want to be sure of the quality of the herbs and that none has a trace of agrochemicals.”
Florou started the firm with Yanna Matthaiou in 2012. Both had successful careers as marketing executives in the financial sector, where they first met. In an interview with Katerina Bakogianni for Kathimerini, Florou was asked why they chose to start a business on their own, and indeed in the food sector. Florou said they wanted to do something they could be proud of, and they wanted a product with the scent of Greece. They have every reason to be proud: four of their products won a “Great Taste Award” in London last year.
Matthaiou and Florou started out with their own capital, no state subsidies, and limited production. Their first point of sale was a kiosk in an upscale shopping mall in the northern suburbs of Athens. Now their teas are to be found on the shelves of select supermarkets in England, Denmark, France, Italy and Belgium. In 2014, the firm was one of four to be honored with the Hellenic Entrepreneurship Award.
With the funding, mentoring and business support that come with the award and the experience garnered over the last two years, Anassa is looking to expand. Plans include the creation of its own production unit and entry into additional markets abroad. Florou notes, though, that further development is constrained, at least for the time being, by the relative scarcity of high-quality, organically cultivated—and 100% Greek—herbs.
Aromatic and medicinal herbs figure in both Greek mythology and the writings of ancient botanists, pharmacologists and physician-philosophers, such as Hippocrates, Theophrastus and Dioscorides, whose encyclopedic compendium of medicinal plants remained a standard reference work until the 19th century. It is fitting then that Anassa’s packaging concept, designed by MNP Design, pairs each tea with the playful iconic depiction of a figure from Greek mythology: Talos, a bronze giant who circled the island of Crete daily to safeguard it from incursions of pirates and foreign invaders, is featured on the “Pure Defence” tea, and Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep, on the “Pure Peace” blend of chamomile, lavender, tisane and lemon balm. The Temeussian fox adorns the tin for the mint tea, the Athenian owl, the mountain tea.
The tin comes with accessories to prepare the tea without the need for a strainer or teapot—chlorine-free, biodegradable filters, with which you fill with tea and then thread through a thin wooden stick, creating a kind of tea bag: the stick rests on the lip of the cup while the suspended filter is immersed in the water. Not quite the Japanese tea ceremony, but a ritual nonetheless, not to mention a convenience at the office.The packaging design won a gold prize in the 2014 European Design Awards.
Anassa is a model of entrepreneurial talent, commitment to quality, and strong branding that showcases Greece at its finest. The tea is a pleasure in itself.
In writing this post, I’ve drawn on interviews that Matthaiou and Florou have given to Myrsini Tsadarou in lifo and Katerina Bakogianni in Kathemerini (both in Greek). There’s also a corporate video, captioned in English, which is worth viewing. The beautifully designed Anassa website also deserves browsing, not only for the product details but also for its gorgeous photos of the teas.